Matt Carello barely escaped with his life when a roadside bomb shredded his military truck on the Samara bridge in central Iraq back in 2004.
On Tuesday, before a crowd of 200 at the city’s annual Veterans Day ceremony at Memorial Boulevard Middle School, Carello recalled the smell of sulphur and burning flesh.
“Coming home is the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Carello said. “I’ll never forget where I was.”
Many of the aging veterans who dotted the auditorium nodded their heads in agreement.
Carello, 29, said that every soldier coming back from every theater of war in every age needs the support of the community.
Mayor Art Ward said that the community has a chance this week to show its support for another wounded veteran, Corp. Matt Lavoie, who is recovering in a Washington, D.C. military hospital from an Iraqi explosion in September.
“We can help a wounded veteran from our community,” Ward told the crowd, by showing up for the $15-a-person fundraiser on Thursday to help Lavoie’s family cope with expenses.
Ward said that Lavoie, who has undergone at least 10 surgeries already, is going to return home soon a changed man.
“Without a doubt,” the mayor said, “it’s going to be a life-altering experience.”
Ward, a Vietnam War veteran, said that he is sure Lavoie “would be very, very appreciative of anything we can do” to help his family and himself.
Organized by his mother's boss, Carrie Tonon, the $15-a-person pasta dinner fundraiser is slated for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday. at Nuchies.
Lavoie called it a "very nice" gesture recently.
"I wish I could go," he said, adding that he probably can't.
But Pam Lavoie, his mother, is hoping they can rig up a webcam so at least he can make some sort of appearance.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a former mayor who put in 30 years in the military, said that Lavoie is "a young man who placed his life on the line for his country" and deserves the help of the entire community as he tries to recover.
Nicastro said that it is "well worth the money" for everyone to attend the pasta supper and to lend a hand to a brave young soldier.
"This family could use all of our community support," Ward said.
Tickets will be available at the door or by emailing Tonon at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org